home 2015-16, Blogs, Game Coverage Wizards vs. Hornets Pregame: Searching For An Antidote

Wizards vs. Hornets Pregame: Searching For An Antidote

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Regular Season Game 25

Charlotte (15-10) at Washington (10-14)

December 16, 2015 at 8:30 PM
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
TV: CSN Mid-Atlantic
Radio: 99.1FM


Last time they met was..

November 25, 2015 at Verizon Center, Washington: Rockets 99, Wizards 91
READ: Game Notebook 12, Wizards at Hornets: Stung in The Hive


What to watch..

How the Wizards will continue to ruin our lives. To be frank, the Wizards have been flat out awful this season. Yes, my sentiment is partially rooted from the high expectations we had of them going into the season, but the Wizards’ incompetence through 25 games has been far more than mere underachievement. They have issues, and they have them on both sides of the ball. What’s worse, there really isn’t an antidote for cure. At least if there is, the drug for it still in some sort of trial stage with no sight of it hitting the market any time soon.

Let’s start with offense. Simply put, the Wizards have no firepower outside John Wall. None. Nada. Sure, Marcin Gortat can be a scorer but therein lies the key word: can. He often isn’t as he remains underutilized in a reformed offense that sometimes just doesn’t seem fit for him. Yes, Gary Neal is a gem off the bench, but it’s Gary Neal. His 10 points per game seem more valuable only because there isn’t anyone else to score them. Oh, and Otto Porter is still a crucial work in progress offensively. He attempts nearly five 3’s per game, but is making only 27 percent of them (he’s shooting just 16% from downtown this month). And then you’ve got #BubbleWrap Brad, who teased us with a stat line of 25 points per game before a shoulder injury shelved him for a few games, regressing back to old Brad after coming back from said injury and then completing the inevitably recurring Panda Cycle of yet another stress injury to his leg.

Now the defense. On the surface, the numbers are clear: the Wizards are in the bottom 5 in defensive efficiency. They haven’t held an opponent under 100 points in 9 straight games (a 97-85 win over Cleveland on December 1) and have allowed over 110 points in 4 straight. They gift wrap 3-point shots for their opponents, allowing them to shoot at a 41 percent clip from that range – dead last in the league by a whopping 2 percent over New Orleans. Randy Wittman writes off the Wizards struggles as not a problem with strategy or schemes, but instead a general lack of effort. The Wizards tend to agree, but perhaps only to maintain a professional image and not deflect blame. But perhaps this is also the reason why there is no cure in sight. The team’s struggles go beyond ‘just not playing hard enough’. Teams are perpetually playing their best against the Wizards by considerable margins. Something needs to change, and it’s not just the effort.


Key matchup

“Soft” Wizards vs. their home crowd?

Creating the narrative of softness comes with a bit of baggage. You better be right about what you accuse, and you better be prepared for the counter-defense by the party which you accused.

After the Wizards’ last home game against the Rockets, Randy Wittman proclaimed that the reason his guys fell into such a deep hole in the first half was because they came out “too soft”, as they apparently do in most home games. According to Wittman, the Wizards’ first half softness was “as evident as night and day”, and the testament to that was how conversely they came out in the second half, tougher and more aggressive. I don’t totally disagree with Randy, and I don’t think he meant to be a dick. The Wizards did look lethargic in the first half. They were slow on defense. They were lackadaisical on offense. There was simply no energy.

After Wittman made his statements, a reporter expectedly poked Marcin Gortat and John Wall with the question of being soft and, as expected of any passion-driven ‘I worked all my life for this’ athlete, they were noticeably defensive.

“I take my job very seriously” — Marcin Gortat

“I know I ain’t soft, and I know my teammates ain’t soft” — John Wall

The jury on the Wizards’ softness at home may still be out, but if we glance at some 1st quarter numbers from recent outings at the Verizon Center, it’s tough to say they’ll be hung for long:

11/24 vs. Indiana: The Wizards defense allowed CJ Miles and Paul George to combine for 27 points on 7-for-7 shooting from 3.

11/28 vs. Toronto: The Wizards shot 8-for-24 (33%)

12/2 vs. LA Lakers: The Wizards committed 7 turnovers, went 0-5 from 3, and trailed L.A. 34-22.

12/4 vs. Phoenix: The Wizards shot 7-for-24 (29%) while the Suns shot 64% from the field.

12/6 vs. Dallas: The Wizards shot 11-for-25, missed four of five 3’s, and allowed 57% shooting by the Mavs.

12/9 vs. Houston: The Wizards shot 7-for-25, committed 4 turnovers, and allowed the Rockets to shoot 54% from the field.

There seems to be a point made by Wittman based on an obvious pattern of slow starts by the Wizards in the past six games at home. But what it is that’s caused #SoftGate and for the Wizards to come out so sluggish at home remains a mystery. Maybe it’s the equally sluggish crowd they struggle to feed off of but hey, let’s not get me started on that right now.


X-factor:

No Al Jefferson. One of Marcin Gortat’s toughest matchups as a Wizard has been Al Jefferson. Look, I once even made a #WizardsKiller graphic for him!

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With Jefferson out serving a suspension for untimely bong hits, the lesser frightening Cody Zeller will likely get the start again. This offers Gortat an opportunity for another pleasant offensive outing after scoring 20 in San Antonio on Wednesday night. While Zeller is more of a standstill in the paint, Gortat will need to be wary of Frank Kaminsky, who is prone to stretch the floor a lot wider than Zeller can. At 7 feet even, Kaminsky has enough range to feel comfortable taking shots from 20 feet and beyond, and we all know how the Wizards feel about contesting shots from distance. If there is any time the Wizards can use a solid outing from Gortat on both ends of the floor, it is this night against the Hornets.


Fun factor:

It’s throwback night!

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Prediction:

Wizards go hard at home.

we are Hoop District

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